The Reunion

I had an unfashionably good experience at Catholic schools in Minnesota from 1974 to 1985. Contrary to popular myth, not a single nun who taught me was ugly or mean. I got solid academic instruction, but was also encouraged to look within and to live with deliberation.

Still, we were teenagers who engaged in all the classic forms of teenage pettiness, so I dreaded my twentieth high-school reunion, afraid my classmates and I would all resume our old roles-jocks clinging to former glory, the few jerks being mean again. I worried that my peers wouldn’t think I was “good” enough (hadn’t discovered a cure for cancer or won a Nobel Peace Prize). And I had wrinkles.

I surprised myself by enjoying the first reunion event, the “Meet Your Former Teachers” reception. The brilliantly articulate nun who taught me eighth-grade grammar stood modestly at the back of the room. She was celebrating her fiftieth anniversary as a nun but did not look a day older than she did twenty years ago. She had worked hard all those years and been paid next to nothing, and still radiated optimism. Another nun had been a marathoner. I had been startled one day to see her running through town, her impressive biceps flexing. As a result, I had decided to take up distance running. The sisters I knew modeled womanhood as mental and physical strength, authenticity, and self-respect. They were not defined by sex, but by selfhood. They were...

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About the Author

Kathleen Anderson is an associate professor of English at Palm Beach Atlantic University.